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Clinical Research Coordinator Profile: Dispelling the myths of research one patient at a time

Image: ADeia Williams started her career in biomedical research, and is now a clinical research coordinator for the Office of Research Affairs
ADeia Williams started her career in biomedical research, and is now a clinical research coordinator for the Office of Research Affairs

As the region’s leading academic health center, part of our mission to is advance medicine and public health through high-quality, patient-oriented research. To that end, clinical research coordinators and managers play a critical role in this process at the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville. In this series, we highlight how their work extends from the lab to the bedside to advance health care and impact patients’ lives.

Before accepting her position as a clinical research coordinator at the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville, you could find ADeia Williams hard at work in a lab. After attaining her bachelor's degree in biology and master's in biomedical research, Williams conducted research specific to animals, post-traumatic stress disorders and fear responses. However, she wanted to be part of something that would have a direct and swift impact on people facing health challenges in her community.

"Lab and animal research is incredibly important, but can be slow-moving," Williams said. "You don't see the immediate impact that it has and that's why I decided to dive into clinical research."

In 2019, a new venture in research brought Williams out of the lab and into patients’ rooms at UF Health as a clinical research coordinator. She made it her mission to be a patient ally and advocate for research.

Building trust through education

Approaching a patient about a research study can be a daunting task – no patient is the same, nor do they have the same health circumstance. To be effective, Williams says you must lead with compassion, have considerable skills in bedside manner and be transparent about what you are there to do.

“I’ve gone into rooms where the patient was just diagnosed with cancer and they’re confused or in shock,” Williams said. “In those instances, you must know how to manage and navigate sensitive situations and let the patient know you are there as a resource for them.”

 A daily aspect of Williams’ job is making the patient more comfortable by taking the mystery out of research. In her experience, the hesitancy tends to fade as she details the aspects of a trial and shows the positive impacts that particular research study can have. The highlight of her job is when patients see immediate results. An example of that is the Genetic Testing to Understand and Address Renal Disease Disparities trial, or GUARDD. This trial uses genetic testing to identify if African American patients with hypertension are at risk for developing genetic chronic kidney disorders. It also evaluates which medications work best to control their high blood pressure.

 “For studies like this, the patient may find a specific medication helps manage their disease or ailment. Some may discover they do not have a genetic risk for the disease at all. Others who are at risk can be made aware and, in turn, be proactive to prevent or treat an illness in the future,” Williams said.

Williams notes when a patient has a positive research experience, they are likely to participate again. She believes outcomes like this can change how people view research, particularly among minority communities which often have far lower participation rates in clinical research.

Duties of a research coordinator 

Coordinators like Williams handle all facets of a clinical trial and with UF Health’s robust research program, they may be working on multiple trials simultaneously. Most trials are in different phases, so when she isn’t meeting with patients, she is heavily engaged in the administrative portion of her job.

“You can be working on a budget, contracts, communicating with various departments on and off campus to organize a trial or manage those that are ongoing in a day’s work,” Williams said.

 With many moving elements in the research process, precision and accuracy are necessary for this role. While Williams enjoys bonding with patients and seeing research benefit them, her main job is to keep studies on course, which requires great attention to detail.

Career in research 

As Williams continues her work at the UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville, she hopes to help change the face of research by dispelling myths that are commonly associated with it.

“If people can view research as an opportunity and resource for better health and awareness, we can make significant progress,” Williams said.

She would like to see more people take an interest in careers in research, emphasizing this field has many opportunities to grow and develop. Her advice to anyone considering becoming a clinical research coordinator is to never be discouraged about what you don’t know.

“Research is all about pushing the bounds of knowledge,” said Williams. “This role is all about learning.”

The UF College of Medicine – Jacksonville has attained national recognition for its role as a leader in transformative, cutting-edge research. Among physicians and scientists, the institution is known for fostering a rich, collaborative environment that fuels discovery and encourages creativity. Research is centered around changing lives and moving medicine forward. Visit med.jax.ufl.edu/research/ for more information.

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Clinical Research Coordinator Profile: Dispelling the myths of research through education